Prose Header


by Saurbh Katyal

I don’t know how the creature got inside. The door stands as a barricade between me and the outside world. The windows are closed. Yet the swan sits on the table, fixing its penetrating gaze on me. I obliterate the remnants of a disturbed sleep and go shoo-shoo at it. It obstinately flourishes its wings and stubbornly stays put.

I feel vegetated. My eyes become patulous as I perambulate towards consciousness. I spring my body upwards and am rewarded with an excruciating cramp that tears my neck. I remind myself for the umpteenth time to buy a pillow.

I consider myself impassive in the usual realm of mortals. But what I see incites an involuntary scream from my stomach. I shake my arms vigorously. They are pale and deflated. I work out. I have thick forearms and 14-inch biceps. Is this a dream? I make a lost effort to pinch my arms, but the strength required to perform this feat is Herculean. My hands cling to the rest of my frame as roots from a banyan tree. I can feel no muscle, no tissue, no friction.

My helplessness transitions into terror. I make a feeble attempt to flap my arms; the swan mocks me by elegantly spreading its wings. I realize that the swan is responsible for my predicament. The eyes of the swan give it away. The eyes are smiling; I can see my reflection in them. The black and white color aggrandize my handicap.

I speak first, “Help me please.”

The swan suddenly moves: it catapults into the air, pecks my forehead and lands back on the table with a celerity that astounds and terrifies me. Blood from my forehead drips via my nose to touch my lips.

I implore, “Please. What have you done to me?”

“I pecked your forehead and drank your blood.”

“Why? I did you no harm.”

“You killed my wife. Last Christmas.”

I have an instant recollection of shooting a swan at Linda’s place last Christmas. I had been sorry after killing it. They were a pair; the better half had followed me back to Linda’s house. Later that night when Linda’s dad barbecued the dead swan, I had caught its partner staring at me from a rooftop. I had been too intoxicated to care that night. I had the job, the house and the girl.

Strange. Things had fallen apart right after that incident. Linda had left me for a better man, the house got destroyed in a fire and my employer fired me.

I feel darkness beckoning me. I importunate for my life, “Mercy.”

“You have to say the correct line if you want to live.”

I blabber as I try to think of the appropriate line to appease the creature.

“I am sorry. It was a mistake... Revenge will not get her back... Please have mercy.”

“You earned your nemesis. Revenge is justified if it is an emotional reaction.”

The Swan smiles.

I bludgeon my mind for the correct line. It’s on the tip of my tongue.

The swan defies gravity and punishes me with the beak once more. I feel my eyeball being plucked out. Strangely I do not feel any pain. I am falling into an abyss. I exhaust my grey cells once more to come up with the one line that will redeem me.

As the last vestiges of consciousness betray me, I remember the line. The excitement of ferreting the correct answer galvanizes me and I shout, “Wait. I remember now. She died so that you could live. The bullet was meant for you. You saw me and moved. You are responsible for her death.”

Amidst the sanguine curtain of blood covering my one-eyed vision, I see the sad swan rise and fly away. I gravitate towards darkness, thankful for my existence.

Copyright © 2006 by Saurbh Katyal

Home Page